Move over, weddings. The 21st birthday is quickly becoming the most important event in a woman’s – or man’s – life. What was once a reasonably modest coming-of-age bash has become a huge deal, with some parents spending up to $20,000 on their child’s birthday parties.
According to the SMH:
Upmarket venues typically hired for weddings, such as the Shangri-la Hotel, Luna Park’s Crystal Ballroom and the Hilton’s Marble Bar, are attracting bookings, often with a generous bar tab and a hired DJ.
It took three months for university student Liz Mudie to organise her 21st party at the Pavilion restaurant in the Botanic Gardens last month. A sparkling orange designer cocktail dress was purchased to celebrate the occasion, which also involved hiring plush white furniture, a DJ, a lolly bar, flower bouquets for tables and a designer cake inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night from patissier-to-the-stars Planet Cake in Balmain. She estimates the party cost about $16,000.
Ms Mudie said she felt pressure to hold a successful event, not to compete for the best party.
Luna Park has also been home to extravagant 21sts. Its event manager, Stephanie Humphreys, said it had hosted 21st parties costing up to $30,000 in the Crystal Ballroom. ”The sky’s the limit for how much parents want to pay,” she said.
Kat Wilkins, a university student, celebrated her 21st with a three-course dinner at Killara Golf Club. She spent five months planning her party and wore a Carla Zampatti dress. ”Turning 21 for me represented a landmark,” she said. ”It provided a great opportunity to have all the people who are important to me in one place at one time.”
Marking a 21st year with an extravagant party is not restricted to young women. University student Alex Morris, organised a joint 21st at the Sydney Aquarium late last year. He wanted to host a party in a more unusual setting, he said. ”Nowadays, everyone is hiring out venues and going nuts,” Mr Morris said, who estimates his party cost $16,000.
Look, I get that 21sts are a big deal. I had one myself just the other day. And I get that parties can become pricey. Once you slot in all the factors – venue, food, drinks, cake, decorations, an outfit – you can be looking at a shindig that’s going to cost you well into the thousands.
I picked out a function room at the local pub, paid the room hire and put some money towards a bar tab and a few spring rolls and meat pies. And then I didn’t want to spend any more money, so I made my own cake, plugged my iPod in and stuck to a Bardot dress rather than a designer one.
I’m rather disappointed that I didn’t get the Bengal tigers that I requested as doorstoppers. And I didn’t even know that the aquarium held 21sts – I would have been all over that. But I did get to enjoy a casual, relatively stress-free birthday with my nearest and dearest. Nobody there really cared that there wasn’t a lolly bar or any plush white furniture. (They did appreciate the spring rolls, though.)
I don’t know why throwing such an extravagant 21st has become a trend. Maybe it’s social media – now that everything gets photographed, captioned, tagged and put on Facebook faster than you can say “where did you pull that iPhone from?”, there’s a whole new degree of competitiveness that comes through. It’s Keeping Up With The Joneses in an era where it’s no longer the Joneses who see what you do – it’s also the Williams and Smiths and, well, everybody.
To me, it seems like way too much pressure to put on yourself – not to mention way too much money to spend on what’s really going to be just one more day in your entire life. (There’s also a possibility that I am just cheap..)
So tell us – what did you do for your 21st? Maybe you had a house party with all your friends. Maybe you went water-skiing because it’s your favourite thing to do. Or maybe you threw that $16,000 bash at your local aquarium (I promise you can tell me, I won’t be too jealous).